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Entries in Costume Design (121)

Tuesday
Feb252014

Interview: Patricia Norris on 12 Years a Slave, Scarface, Twin Peaks

Patricia Norris with her lifetime achievement from the Costume Guild in 2007Patty Norris is a national treasure but I believe she'd be the last person to say so. When I spoke to the enduring costume designer over the phone about sixth Oscar nomination for 12 Years a Slave, she shocked me again and again with her modesty and her absolute lack of sentiment about what I've always thought of as a very illustrious Hollywood career. But her honestly was, shall we say, refreshing.

The 82 year old's career, as we know it at least, began over just over 40 years ago with westerns like Rio Lobo (1970) and Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971) but she doesn't get misty-eyed or nostalgic about her filmography. "I think it was just luck. I started as a stock girl at MGM and I've always been comfortable with clothes," she explains. But to hear her tell it, her developing career wasn't born of and ambitious creative drive, but from practicality.  "I was married but I was left with five children and I had to support them! So you start taking almost any work. There are a few I would like not to think about!" 

I instantly worry (aloud) that I'll touch on one of those accidentally but if I do in the ensuing conversation, she doesn't let on.

I assumed her current flurry of work (Killing Them Softly, The Immigrant, 12 Years a Slave) was a sudden return from retirement but she corrects the impression. She's just picky since she's been frugal. "It's one of those things. Save your money and you don't have to do anything. I do just what I want to do. If it doesn't come along I just do housework." 

Happily for fans of costume dramas, The Immigrant and 12 Years a Slave came along. And these she definitely wanted to do. [more...]

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Tuesday
Feb182014

Interview: Michael O'Connor on "Fussy" Costumes & Principal Actresses

A curious reversal: I'm discussing Oscar-voting with costume designer Michael O'Connor, an Oscar winner for The Duchess (2008) nominated again for his work on the Dickensian romantic drama The Invisible Woman and he reveals that, though he takes voting seriously, he doesn't really think it's a good thing to know too much about the behind the scenes achievements on movies, beyond what you can see and judge visually. 

Michael O'Connor and one of his Oscar-nominated designs from The Invisible Woman

That’s why I don’t teach or do classes. I don't think it would be a good experience. I want the discussion when I’m doing it because it helps me work but when you watch [a movie] you shouldn’t know the discussions. When you watch a film sometimes and stay for the Q&A it’s changed the experience because now you know some of the secrets. Some of the magic is not knowing. 

And, yet, once you get Michael O'Connor talking about his craft, he doesn't quit (a wonderful problem in an interview) and his passion for Costume Design is always front and center. I'm not at all convinced that he wouldn't make a good teacher but his students would have to be quick, as he leaps from topic to topic, sometimes without warning. 

From our vantage point in 2014 his current status as an Oscar winning costume designer seems inevitable...

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Feb162014

14 Days Til Oscar: "All About Titanic"

[Our countdown to Hollywood's High Holy Night continues. Here's abstew with a fun "battle"]

We've only 14 days to go. It seemed like the perfect time to take a look at the two films that jointly hold the record for most nominations (in case you hadn't guessed, that would be 14). One is a fabulous Actressexual's dream about back-stabbing in the theatre world and the other a small indie about a boy and girl in love. Oh, yeah and something about a ship. 

Technically, Titanic holds a higher place in Oscar history, having won 11 of its 14 nominations while All About Eve went home with only six statues (though 12 was the most it could have won with double-nods in Lead and Supporting Actress). But haven't you always wondered what film would come out victorious if they had gone head-to-head?  No? Well, let's find out anyway

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Friday
Feb142014

16 Days Til Oscar: The Costumes of Irene Sharaff

Irene SharaffIf Catherine Martin wins an Oscar this year for her work on The Great Gatsby, she will join prolific costume Designer Orry-Kelly as Australia’s most Oscared individual. If Martin wins both of her nominations? She will become the first Australian to ever win more than three statues (having already won the same two for Moulin Rouge! 12 years ago). We’re not here to talk about Martin, nor Orry-Kelly really, but that’s an interesting statistic nonetheless. One of Orry-Kelly’s wins was for An American in Paris, which he won alongside Walter Plunkett and the main subject of this entry, Irene Sharaff.

Sharaff was a 15-time Oscar nominee for her work as a costume designer and was also nominated once for art direction, which certainly places her as one of the designers' favorites. She doesn’t have the famous name of, say, Edith Head or contemporaries Sandy Powell, but with such a massive nomination haul and a subsequent five awards, she should be recognized as one of the greats. She had one helluva profile, too.

Consider what Irene Sharaff won for: the aforementioned An American in Paris, plus The King and I, West Side Story, Cleopatra and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Consider also the titles for which she wasn’t even nominated: Meet Me in St. Louis, The Best Years of Our Lives, Funny Girl and Mommie Dearest, which was to be her final job and was a deserving contender in spite of the film’s reputation. She designed for Judy Garland, Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, and Susan Sarandon. She's a legend.

Irene Sharaff focused almost primarily on musicals, which perhaps explains why her career declined so dramatically after 1969’s Hello, Dolly! She would receive only one last nomination, for The Other Side of Midnight in 1977 (the film's only nomination anywhere, proving her lasting legacy). Likewise, her collaborations with superstars like Elizabeth Taylor and Barbra Streisand, two actors with infrequent big screen careers, probably didn’t help either. Or perhaps she was just exhausted. She had also won a Tony Award from six nominations. Maybe she just earned herself a quiet retirement, dying in 1993 at the age of 83.

 

  • Woody Allen received his 16th nomination for writing this year. All of his writing nominations have been for original works, too. Alas, we’ve written about him enough lately, wouldn’t you agree?

 

Wednesday
Feb122014

A Year With Kate: Break of Hearts (1935)


Episode 7 of 52 wherein Anne Marie screens all of Katharine Hepburn's films in chronological order. 

In which we ignore the movie for a beauty break

Question: Does anybody know what “Break of Hearts” means? I’m guessing it was 30’s slang for “recycled romance plotline.” Break of Hearts is another tired story which follows the predictable cycle of heartbreak and forgiveness between the Ambitious Girl (Kate) and the Troubled Artist (Charles Boyer). But who cares?

The real joy in this film is the costume design by Bernard Newman, the RKO designer responsible for every bizarrely wonderful dress Ginger Rogers wore in Top Hat and Swingtime. This is the only time Newman costumed Kate, so let us take a moment to appreciate Hepburn’s most enjoyable gowns since that moth number in Christopher Strong. [More...]

 

 

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Monday
Feb102014

20 Days Til Oscar (1993 Flashback)

Today's magic number is... 20! I couldn't find a statistic from this year's race involving the number 20 so what were Oscar fanatics like me (and you if you're weren't an infant) obsessing about 20 years ago in the Oscar race? 1993 was a fairly astonishing film year but there wasn't much drama in the Oscar race. Everyone knew that Tom Hanks and Holly Hunter would win the lead Oscars and the night would be all about Steven Spielberg with multiple wins for both Jurassic Park (recently revisted right here) and Schindler's List. Even Supporting Actor, in what one could argue was its best shortlist ever, didn't contain much drama. Though Ralph Fiennes (Schindler's List)  and Leonardo DiCaprio (What's Eating Gilbert Grape?) were giving major star-is-born performances, it was pretty clear that the industry wanted to honor Tommy Lee Jones for his whole career and for co-starring in a huge hit (The Fugitive).

So was there any drama at all? Why, yes, I'm so glad you asked.

Click to read more ...

Friday
Feb072014

Link Vision

Clothes on Film on the suits of The Wolf of Wall Street
The Playlist Snowpiercer directors cut will come to the US in limited release
Vulture guess the Mean Girls line quiz. I scored 12/12 and I only had to use a hint once. 
Variety six college students chosen to deliver Oscars to presenters as "Team Oscar" - Channing Tatum helped handpick them. If this had happened to me in college I would have died of joy. Possibly before the ceremony thereby robbing me of the experience. I hope they survive and love every second of it. 

Jimmy Kimmel Live celebrities reading mean tweets about themselves. My favorites are Sarah Silverman, Tim Robbins, Bob Balaban, John Goodman, and Cate Blanchett
Empire Lots of Captain American Winter Soldier character posters
Coming Soon Johnny Depp and probably Tom Hardy for Black Mass, a true story organized crime drama. That worked terrifically (Donnie Brasco) and fine but not great (Public Enemies) for Depp in the past but at least it's not another cartoon character.  
Bent Philip Seymour Hoffman's key gay roles. I really thought he was awful inFlawless but good clip choice
Peter Knegt shares an awesome press conference moment with Greta Gerwig. Oscar fanatics will need to watch  

I made this and it's remarkably easy to transpose Bettany's face onto The Vision

And Finally...
Some superhero casting news I can actually get behind for a change. It looks like Paul Bettany will be The Vision to Elizabeth Olsen's Scarlet Witch in The Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). Too bad about Aaron Johnson as Quicksilver (although at least he's better than the looks-to-be ghastly interpretation of the character over in X-Men: Days of Future Past)  but one excellent choice, one fine choice and one questionable but better than it could have been choice in a trio of famous characters is a pretty good ratio for superhero casting! So well done Joss Whedon and team. 

P.S. for those who are unaware The Vision is the android husband of The Scarlet Witch (don't ask) who is the sister of Quicksilver who are the children of Magneto. At least that's what they were saying when I read comic books (but they love to rewrite histories).] 

 

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